by Brady Aymond

How many times do you find yourself in Walt Disney World waiting in line at a counter-service restaurant dreading the notion of eating yet another cheeseburger or chicken strips meal? How often do you find yourself ordering the same thing over and over and eating at the same counter-service restaurant over and over? If you’re anything like me, or my family, it’s too many to count. Sometimes safe is easy. I know I like cheeseburgers. I know I like chicken strips. I know I like hot dogs. But there are times when we all want something different. Something unique. So today, I offer up my top 5 non-traditional counter service restaurants. They may be places you go to on a regular basis, but this list is for those looking for something other than chicken-strips and cheeseburgers:

5. Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom – Located on the outskirts of Liberty Square, Columbia Harbour House gives you a chance to fulfill your desire for seafood. From a white tuna sandwich to grilled salmon and a fried shrimp or fish basket, Columbia Harbour House is definitely a seafood-lovers haven. It’s a nice break from eating beef or chicken all week, and is pretty cool in the fact that part of it is located in Liberty Square and part is in Fantasyland. Next time you visit, go check out how the décor changes when you transition into the Fantasyland area. (Ed. Note: My favorite thing about Columbia Harbour House is the often-overlooked upstairs seating area – it’s spacious, often empty, and offers some great views).

4. Everything Pop food court at Pop Century Resort – Strictly speaking, this is cheating, because you’d have to leave the parks. But if you want a break and you want variety, Everything Pop has it for you. There’s an area for oven fired flatbreads, which also serves pretty good-sized salads. The pizza shop is, I think, the best counter-service pizza option on property. And there’s a specialty shop that varies, but is mostly Asian-inspired dishes. Again, it’s one of those all-inclusive food courts that gives you a little bit of everything.

3. Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom – I don’t know about you guys, but I feel a tad bit guilty when I think about consuming large quantities of meat when I’m at Animal Kingdom. Maybe I’m weird. Anyway, if you want to consume large quantities of meat while in Animal Kingdom, there’s no better spot than Flame Tree Barbecue. You can’t tell me you haven’t made the walk to Dinoland and had the smell of the BBQ seep out and slap you right across the face. The eatery offers a 1/2 slab of ribs, a 1/2 chicken, and a rib and chicken combo. For those of you wanting some grass with your meat, there’s a barbecued chicken salad. It’s definitely a unique counter-service meal, and one for the BBQ fans out there. (Ed. Note: My wife is particularly fond of the excellent fresh fruit plate).

2. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Magic Kingdom – Like every other counter-service eatery in Walt Disney World, Cosmic Ray’s does have its fair share of chicken strips and burgers. The beauty of this place is that while your kids are chowing down on chicken nuggets and burgers, you can head over to Bay 1 and get a 1/2 chicken and BBQ rib combo or a BBQ pork sandwich. I personally love Cosmic Ray’s for the fact that there’s something for everyone. And the entertainment isn’t bad.

1. Sunshine Seasons in Epcot – This is probably a no-brainer because the best non-traditional counter-service restaurant may in fact be the best counter-service restaurant on property, period. Sunshine Seasons may have the most extensive menu of all the counter-service restaurants. As for as non-traditional fare, you won’t find a chicken strip or burger on the menu. But you will find Mongolian beef, roasted pork chop, sweet-and-sour chicken, roasted beets and goat cheese salad, reuben Panini and a togarashi seared tuna noodle salad. So, if you’re tired of burgers and chicken strips, Sunshine Seasons should be your next stop.

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